Sonic Reducer

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Canadian Baroque-pop super group Broken Social Scene has not put out a new album. BSS co-founder Kevin Drew has … with 23 contributing musicians, including members of BSS (hence the "presents"). But Spirit If … is Drew’s baby. Despite massive collaborative efforts, Drew wrote or co-wrote all the songs, sang lead vocals, played various instruments, produced the album and created the album art. Gives one the impression BSS wasn’t satisfying his creative urge. Spirit If … is a masterful piece of genre-blending art, taking the elements that made BSS a hit and adding a more personal, self-sacrificing tone. It’s a satisfying rock album that (thankfully) doesn’t aim to be anything but. [AD]

Kanye West Graduation (Roc-A-Fella)

50 Cent, watch out: the samples cleared and Kanye finally graduated. Kanye West is our 2007 mainstream rap valedictorian. Whether or not you like the man, Graduation is grounding the genre back in good hip-hop music, in no small part by perfecting the art of the sample. Graduation ‘s intro sets the tone and finishes strong all the way to the end—rappers that carry the swagger of a drug-peddling mafioso could very well be out of the job. Critics are wont to peg West a better producer than rapper, but with Graduation , there’s no doubt he’s emerged as a double threat. [JAH]

Ani DiFranco Canon (Righteous Babe)

Nineteen studio albums and 17 years later, Ani DiFranco is certainly among the musicians deserving of a retrospective. Any Ani fan knows getting too sentimental about a tune is dangerous; you never know when she’s going to have the urge to retool the thing. Here, a fresh take of "Both Hands" is nowhere near as good as some previous versions, but the four other re-recorded tracks are better than the originals. Choosing songs from her vast catalog had to be like combing an aluminum recycling plant for a couple of soda can tabs. But the deed is done, and it’s worth your dime. [MD]

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